Uncle Charley Dingess

Submitted by Bobbie Henthorn Spiers

This is the story of Charley & Nora Farmer Dingess. Charley was my great uncle and they resided in Shively.

This is a story written by the niece of Charley Dingess. Charley married Nora Farmer in January of 1910. This is a sad story about the end of Nora’s life. The little girl Nora that is mentioned grew up and married Jessie St. Clair of Shively. She died in 2014.

Uncle Charlie

My father’s brother, Charlie, bought the joining farm. He was newly married to Nora Farmer. The farm had a house already built on it. He and my father were very close, so they worked together in their undertakings.

Charley Dingess and wife, Nora Farmer

Charley Dingess and wife, Nora Farmer

One morning on Uncle Charlie’s usual trip to the big barn to feed and attend the horses and mules. I heard him tell my Mother. Aunt Nora wasn’t feeling well and would she go by to see her. Aunt Nora worsened. The doctor came from Logan to see her. He explained about her failing kidneys. A baby girl was born too soon. She was so small no one expected her to live. She was wrapped in cotton and wool blankets, carried over two hills to Uncle Will and Aunt Elsie’s house on Buck Fork. Aunt Elsie had a new baby, so she took the tiny baby (named Nora) to nurse and care for with her new baby girl. Uncle Charlie had told us such a story when their first child a boy, was born. How he had to wrestle with the stork to get the baby, and even showed us feathers in front of the house the stork had left.

I wondered why he had no big tale to tell again. He looked sad, hardly spoke or smiled. Mama spent most of the time with them, helping and praying. The day gone, long evening shadows and night time. The snow was falling slowly and intermittently while we children slept a long night, never to be forgotten by the loved ones who cared.

Dawn came again. Children played. Cows came as usual to the gap. The dogs barked. The chickens left their roost in search of food. People passed by. The mail carrier made his trip as usual. The steam in front of the house hurried along. With easy rhythm it moved from curve to curve, back to the place from whence it came.

God’s time doesn’t stop. His timetable is set.

Aunt Nora was laid to rest and sleeps in the same mound with Dell.

After Aunt Nora’s death, Uncle Charlie closed his house. Brought his two older children, Nancy and Harve, to live with us. With so many children in one house, many problems had to be solved. There was hardly room around the large table. Some had to eat standing. Standing was never too bad. After all, the big table was always well supplied by our good cook Mae. The care we gave the children was amply returned by hard work and a place filled when my father was ill. Uncle Charlie was a tower of strength to all who knew him.

After perhaps a year had passed since Aunt Nora’s death, from time to time I would hear the old folks talk of Uncle Charlie’s plan to visit old man Jack Robinson’s home. He had an older daughter who had not been taken, and she just might please Uncle Charlie.

Time went on. Nothing else said, but this one Sunday morning I thought might be a special day as Uncle Charlie put on his best clothes and carefully combed his new haircut. He said not a word to anyone, but late Sunday evening (like Mama said), down the narrow mountain road with slow steps came Uncle Charlie, his new wife behind him.

Harriet was to us some very needed sunshine. She took Uncle Charlie’s little ones to his long closed and neglected farmhouse.

Life and respect began. The stork visited again. The vegetable garden grew. The chicken house was noisy again and the corn grew taller. His wife cared for his two children as her own. However, they died in early youth. The tiny one stayed with Uncle Will and his family. She grew up a nice lady, married and is living yet. Her name is Nora St. Clair.

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Monaville, WV

Monaville was originally called Vanceville. “The name was believed to have been changed to Monaville in honor of Mona Wilkinson, the daughter of a prominent coal mining official. The Logan Mining Company operated a coal mine here and the name … Continue reading

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Mountain Woman

Kathy Browning and family

Mountain Woman: Reflections on Life in the Appalachian Coalfields

by Matt Browning at mattbrowningbooks.com

Earlier this year, I was invited by Voices of Appalachia to write a piece about Appalachian culture. I chose to interview my mother about her experiences growing up, getting married, raising a family and retiring in the coalfields of Logan County, W.Va.

Kathy Browning On a typical Sunday morning drive through Omar, W.Va., about 10 miles south of the Logan County seat, there’s little activity along the two-lane road that winds its way through the community. Once a bustling coal town nestled between the mountains, empty storefronts and pothole-lined streets suggest a place whose best days may be behind it. Yet children’s toys line front yards, people gather at the lone filling station to discuss the day’s news, and the parking lots of the area’s many churches spill cars into the street.

For some longtime residents, however, this version of Omar is far removed from the one of years past. And yet, it remains home.

At age 3, Kathy (Sizemore) Browning moved with her parents and younger brother from Norton, Va., to Omar. The year was 1951, and Kathy’s father, a World War II veteran, was seeking work in the coal mines. Built upon a thriving coal industry, Omar seemed as good a place as any to settle down.

“Dad and my uncle decided to move to West Virginia I guess because the coal jobs were available, and it wasn’t too far from where we were at the time,” Kathy says. “Plus, they both played baseball, and the coal companies had teams.”

Kathy’s early memories of the town differ greatly from what she sees today. “Back in those days, there were nice stucco homes, the big general store, and there was a theater near the train tracks that’s long gone.”

Omar TheaterThe Sizemore family moved into an apartment above the theater, where a young Kathy quickly made herself at home. “I used to go downstairs, and the women who worked at the theater would let me run up and down the aisles or play in the ticket booth. They let me have the run of the place.”

Jobs like working at the theater, though, were rare. In Omar, if you were employed, it was most likely in the mines or for the company that owned it.

“I don’t know of anybody that didn’t work for the coal company. That’s all there was as far as I know,” Kathy says. “The coal company owned everything – the store, the houses you rented. All of it.”

The miners wouldn’t get paid in money. They’d get what they called scrip that they’d use at the company store in exchange for goods. The store stocked everything a family would need, from food to furniture to clothes. People would place a call to the store, give the clerk their list, and the order was delivered to the front door, because no one had transportation unless they owned a horse. In fact, the grocer wasn’t the only one making house calls. The town doctor – also a coal company employee – would come to those in need.

“Dr. Moore was the doctor’s name, and if you got sick, he’d come to the house,” Kathy recalls. “You always got a shot of penicillin and those old gray cough tablets that were like charcoal. You knew when you’d see him coming that you were going to get a shot, so we’d start crying the minute we saw him coming up the road.”

From the basic needs of food and shelter to medical care, it was all controlled by the coal company. Kathy recalls a line from the Tennessee Ernie Ford classic “Sixteen Tons,” which, she says, rang true for the people of Omar.

Omar Company Store“There’s that old song lyric, ‘I owe my soul to the company store.’ It was the truth. There were many times Dad didn’t get a paycheck. He owed it all to the company store. We used to go to the soda fountain in the store and order milkshakes and candy and charge that to Dad’s account, too.”

Having the secure income that a coal job provided didn’t mean life was easy. Many of the homes didn’t even have indoor plumbing.

“We moved from the theater to a small place in nearby Chauncey that had a gas furnace and inside bathrooms. I think we were the only house in Chauncey that had that. And all the school teachers at the four-room schoolhouse down the hill would come up to our house and smoke with Mom during recess.”

This lifestyle carried Kathy through her childhood, but in the early 1960s, she noticed things beginning to change. As automobiles became more prevalent, people were less reliant on the coal company store and were venturing elsewhere for their needs.

“We moved from Chauncey back to the main street in Omar when I was in the 10th grade, and it was around then I noticed things were getting a little bit better. More people had cars, and they’d drive to Logan to shop or go to the old drive-in theater in Monitor. They had the best hamburgers you ever had in your life at that theater.”

Slowly, the days of coal company-owned life dwindled as more and more people ventured beyond Omar’s borders to trade. Even then, the decline in the coal industry was evident as mines began to close and people moved on.

“People just got away from that,” Kathy says. “Just like now, mines would close down, people would move away, same as it is today. It seems to me that around the time I was in high school, all those things were gone – the theater, the store, they weren’t there anymore. Once people got transportation, they were going to Logan to do their shopping.”

Kathy Browning's WeddingWhile in high school, Kathy met her future husband, Stacey Browning, the son of her first and second grade teacher, Inamae Crockett Browning, a descendent of frontiersman and politician Davy Crockett. The two dated while Kathy finished high school and married in November 1966, shortly after her graduation.

“He bought me a ring. It had a little, tiny, itty-bitty diamond that was so small you couldn’t even see it. I don’t even have it anymore. I lost it down the sink!”

The newlyweds rented a small house in the nearby hollow of Cow Creek.

“We paid $25 a month in rent,” she says. “Stacey delivered for the bakery, and I worked at Dot Discount, a drugstore, and then at Sayre Bros. department store. We didn’t have a car at first, so we got a ride to town with our neighbor, or Stacey would bring the bread truck home sometimes.”

The couple eventually moved to Delbarton, in Mingo County, and had their first child, daughter Cindy, in 1970. They then moved to a mountaintop on the West Virginia-Kentucky border.

“Stacey was a forest ranger, and I got a job as a tower observer,” she says. They lived in a small cabin at the base of the tower. “It was a nice little cabin, had a shower in the basement, and the toilet was outside, over the hill.”

Watching for fires proved to be a secure job.

“Lord have mercy, the world would burn up! There were always fires going,” she recalls. “They paid 25 cents an hour to fight fires, so people would set fires just to get the 25 cents an hour to go fight them.” The remote location of a mountaintop tower, however, didn’t necessarily provide security. “I wore a holster and a gun,” Kathy says. “People would try and break in on you up there in those towers.”

With so many hours to kill and so much to see from a mountaintop tower, it was easy to become distracted if activity did occur, whether or not it was fire-related.

“On Sundays, all the young people would come up and make out in their cars on the hill where I was. So one day, I had my binoculars out, and I was watching them. I got a call on the radio saying, ‘Mingo, I’m seeing a lot of smoke in your area. You got a fire over there?’ I turned around and the whole daggone mountainside behind me was burning up while I was watching the lovebirds!”

Eventually, Mother Nature wore out her welcome on the mountaintop. The storms were so strong that wind would jostle the tower, and lightning would often strike the cabin, burning up the telephone line and light bulbs. It became too much for the Brownings.

“It’d scare our German Shepherd to death. He’d disappear for hours at a time during a storm.”

Stacey and Kathy BrowningAfter coming down from the mountain, the family lived with Kathy’s parents for a time, then moved to the Mingo County town of Red Jacket before landing once again in the Omar area, first in the Barnabus community then back to Cow Creek. Stacey and Kathy welcomed two more children along the way – son John in 1976 and Matthew in 1980 – and have called Cow Creek home ever since.

Kathy has watched the coal industry’s effect on her town from its early, successful days, to its steady decline. She recalls her life in Omar with a fondness that, while still evident, has shifted in recent years.

“I liked it better back then. Now a lot of the houses are run down. Back then, the houses were nice – the coal company houses. You had people out on their porches talking all the time. You don’t see that much anymore.”

It’s still a good place, still home, she says. But different.

“You might as well say Omar is like a ghost town compared to back in those days, because you had so much going on. Nobody had any money, but there was a lot going on. Everybody got along. Us kids would go outside and go into the mountains and play and stay all day. We didn’t have to worry about anybody kidnapping us. It was a different set of problems than what goes on today.”

With the expansion of cleaner and cheaper energy sources and stricter environmental regulations on coal mining, leading to what some in the region call a “war on coal,” many people who have long relied on coal to put food on their family’s table are left without a job – or a marketable skillset to fall back on.

“It’s bad. The coal mines keep closing down. They’re laying off so many miners,” Kathy says. “There’s hundreds and hundreds laid off every other week around here, it seems. The government has been trying to train people to do other stuff, but I don’t know how that’s going to work out. A lot of people could end up having to move away to find work.”

Kathy and Stacey BrowningMany in the region are hoping that changes in the political landscape, including electing coal magnate Jim Justice governor of the state, could help to turn the tide. While Kathy is hopeful for a better future for her town, she’s also cautiously realistic. Now retired, and with their children long out of the house, will she and Stacey consider a move out of Omar? It isn’t likely.

“Stacey wouldn’t hear of moving away,” she says of her husband, now 70, who was born in Cow Creek. “And I wouldn’t want to be too far away from the kids.”

Daughter Cindy married a coal miner and lives with her family in nearby Switzer. Older son John and his family reside in Logan, and youngest Matthew in Charleston, the state’s capital city. Kathy and Stacey welcomed their first great-grandchild in 2016.

In November 2016, Kathy and Stacey celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. At age 67, with an extended family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, packing up and leaving just doesn’t seem worth it to Kathy at this point in her life.

“Really, when you get to be our age, you’re too old to go anyway.”

Like so many of the mountain men and women in the town of Omar, for Kathy Browning, it would seem her roots are firmly planted. As the times continue to change, however, what will grow around those roots remains to be seen.

*Published here with permission and our special thanks.

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LHS Class of 1937

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Logan High School Class of 1937 Yearbook Photos, Logan, West Virginia. Continue reading

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Logan, WV 1952 Centennial Celebration Photo Album

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Logan, WV 1952 Centennial Celebration Souvenir Photographs by Don Freeman Special thanks to Deborah Durham, Director of the Museum in the Park and Ralph H. Mcneely for sharing the photos contained in this album. If anyone can identify any of … Continue reading

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Directory of Logan, WV circa 1925

A Detailed Directory of Logan, WV
circa 1925.

Maytag Store Ad
Special thanks to Jack Browning for providing a copy of this historical directory.

The content on this page is for educational purposes and is used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107).

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Development of Education

Development of Education
By J. A. Vickers

The history of Logan County dates back to the French and Indian War. The settlers were all uneducated me setting out into a strange country as pioneers, courage and a will to win being their only tools. Among these early settlers was a man by the name of Boling Baker, a deserter from General Braddock’s army. He was taken in Ohio by a tribe of Shawnee Indians whose chief, Cornstalk, decided to make him run the gauntlet. He was persuaded by his daughter to spare Baker’s life and put him in their tribe. Baker later married this daughter whose name was Aracoma, who became princess of the race. In 1765, they settled on what is now known as the Midelburg Island and the City of Aracoma was named in honor of the princess.

J. A. VickersIn 1799 William Dingess starter the first settlement in Logan. He built his home near the present site of the courthouse, this proved to be very desirable spot and soon more people settled here and in 1824 Logan County was created and received its name from a red foeman, Logan, the Mingo Chief.

The first store in Logan County was opened by Anthony Lawson in 1821. He brought his merchandise from Baltimore over the national road to Wheeling, down the Ohio River in flatboats, and up the Guyandotte. River in canoes.

The Guyandotte River received its name from Henry Guyan, a Frenchman, who had an Indian trading post at the mouth of the river before the county was settled by white men.

The county seat was then known as “The Islands.” In 1827 the name became Lawnsville; in 1852 the name was change to Aracoma, and finally, in 1907 it was changed to Logan because there had been a post office there for some time which was called Logan Court House.

The fist school house in the county was erected by Peter Dingess upon the ruins of an Indian lodge on the island. Later Lewis B. Lawson erected a log house near the mouth of Dingess Run for a school building. George Bryant taught the first school in this building, and was assisted by a Methodist circuit rider’s wife, whose name was Mrs. Graves, from Kentucky. In these schools there were no uniform rulings. Each teacher followed his own plan; each pupil studied what he pleased. One was considered sufficiently educated when he had finished McGuffey’s Reader and Ray’s Arithmetic.

The first high school in Logan was organized August 28, 1911, in what is now known as the Central Grade Building. F. O. Warner was appointed principal. There were sixteen pupils enrolled. Ths school was classified as a third-rate high school and it was not until 1914 that the school became a first-class high school.

During the years 1914-1915, the Junior High School building was constructed and was first occupied by the Logan High School. By 1921 the enrollment had increased to the point where it was necessary to have another building and the present Senior High School was built. In 1930 the school became a member of the Secondary Schools and Colleges.

Thus was the beginning of one of the wealthiest and most progressive sections of West Virginia as we see it today.

1890 Rum Junction School, Rum Creek, WV1952 Logan County High Schools*This article was originally published in the 1952 Centennial Program Booklet published by the City of Logan, WV.

The content on this page is for educational purposes and is used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107).

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My Memories of Logan

My memories of Logan – More Than Feudin’ and Fightin’

By Elizabeth Thurmond Witskhey

This article was originally published in the Spring 2000 edition of the Goldenseal Magazine. It is published here with their permission and our special thanks.

Elizabeth Thurmond, circa 1914

Young Elizabeth Thurmond posed with a favorite book for this studio portrait, circa 1914. The book is The Tale of Paddy Muskrat by Arthur Scott Bailey.

Back when I was a child, there was more going on in Logan than feudin’ and fightin’ and mine wars. Those were the events that made the newspapers, but the outside world had no idea of how wonderful it was to live in Logan, how much fun we had, or how many exciting cultural and entertainment events rode the rails into our little town.

In 1914, Logan began bursting its seams, which up until then had consisted of a sizable hill on one side and a lazy little fish-filled stream on the other. As the area coal business began to prosper and expand, satellite industries kept up the rigorous pace and the population of Logan exploded.

As always with a population explosion, the need for school facilities increased. It wasn’t long until a new junior/senior high school was built beside the ancient grade school. Mr. F.O. Woerner –know to us as “Perfesser” – reigned with an iron ruler and no one even thought of misbehaving when he was nearby. He not only kept us in line, he scared us to death – every minute of the school day. Even so, he was loved and respected as long as he lived.

Summertime in Logan meant long lazy days swimming and swinging from wild grapevines over the Guyandotte River (locally known as the Guyan River). On the last swing out, we’d let go with that deliciously scary feeling of falling out of control, until we were jolted back to our senses with the smack of the water against sunburned bodies. This activity resulted in sore muscles and skin that smarted hours afterward.

A few years later, we deserted that swimming hole for another in the nearby town of McConnell. It was just as much fun, but dangerously deep! And although we felt more daring, we were never quite as comfortable as we had been back at our old swimming hole in Logan.

Elizabeth at the Stollings Swimming Pool

Elizabeth, fourth from the left in the back row, cooled off with some friends at the new Stollings swimming pool during the late 1920s.

I remember long hay rides. In those days, we frequently persuaded Mr. J.J. Hinchman to fill the back of his huge truck with straw. About 20 kids piled in and we’d be off to some mountain spot to roast hot dogs, toast marshmallows, gobble potato salad, and gulp lemonade by moonlight. There was a lot of singin’ and not a little courtin’ going on during these evenings. Try to imagine a mad and frustrated chaperone, or a young girl visibly embarrassed because her mother had come along. All the way home we harmonized on “Down By the Old Mill Stream,” “School Days,” “I’m Forever Blowin’ Bubbles” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Elizabeth and friends at Ward Rock

The long climb to Ward Rock was worth the effort for Elizabeth, left, and her friends.

Ward Rock was an unforgettable landmark high on the hill above the high school. It was flat as a griddle and large enough for 15 or 20 kids. I never knew who originated the “let’s hike to Ward Rock” idea, but several times each year word spread that “that Saturday morning” we would make the trek. Alarms were set for 4:30 a.m., and we went to sleep dreaming of the fun-filled day that lay ahead. About 5:00 a.m. in the morning, starting with those who lived in the east end of town, one by one they came down Stratton Street, winding around Dead Man’s Curve, stopping at every gate whistling and yelling “Get up or we’re goanna leave ya!”

By the time we reached the foot of the hill, there was quite a group. Somehow, Ione Hall, the school music teacher, was always the one who got the job of chaperoning. Maybe it was because she was the youngest on the staff. It was dark as pitch that time of the day and cold enough to freeze a bird’s wing, so we all wore heavy coats caps and boots. We could hardly make the climb for all our heaving clothing but when we finally reached the summit, it felt like we were on top of the world! The sunrise seen half a century later by astronauts circling the globe was never more glorious than that brilliant diamond ball rising slowly from the hills.

Two events in May were anticipated all through the year. The first was the field day event, now call track and field. There was no county unit system in the schools then The counties were divided into districts. Each school in the district had tryouts for the various races; the winners participated in the big race on field day.

Athletic Field, Monaville, WV, 1921

Logan sports fans took the short line to Monaville for athletic events such as this 1921 football game.
(This is the field where Monitor Drive-In was located.)

Field day was always wonderful – usually hot and sunny. We crowded into cars and trucks or caught the local train for the short trip to Monaville, a coal town a few miles from Logan. Monaville – named for Mona Wilkinson, daughter of Judge Wilkinson who owned the land – had the only athletic field in Logan County large enough to accommodate the meet.

Field day was a long day and when it was over, everyone had seen enough 100-yard dashes, pole vaulting, and shot puts to last until the year. Between athletic events, there was plenty of time to eat lunch, drink warm soda pop, make new friends, fight with rivals from other schools, and sometimes start a new romance with handsome athlete from a neighboring school.

Tacky Days

“Tacky Day” was not for the shy or the faint-hearted. Elizabeth, front row center, posed with friends Bertha Browining, Mabel Hinchman, and Catherine Fisher (back row, left to right); Kenneth Klinger, left, and Julius Vitez joined Elizabeth in the fron row for this photograph, circa 1923.

The other big event in May was “Tacky Day.” For weeks everyone accumulated crazy, worn-out, raggedy clothes for the occasion. Some students were too stuck-up, afraid, or shy to “dress tacky.” But those who did participate were the strangest sight ever imagined. We had a ball, but how the teachers stood us in class all day long, I ‘ll never know. During lunch hour and after school, we roamed the streets of Logan giggling and preening in our ridiculous outfits. People stopped and stared in disgust, amusement, and disbelief. No matter the reactions, it bothered us not one iota.

One of the great delights in those days was walking home after school. School buses were nonexistent, and no one who lived with three or four miles of the school would have been caught dead riding instead of strolling home with the gang. On cold winter afternoons, those who had a nickel went to the little hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand just beyond the railroad tracks. No hot dogs were better. The steamed buns were soft and warm and the wieners were juicy and spicy, especially when smothered with chopped onions and chili. When the weather got warmer we stopped at the grocery store on Stratton Street and bought giant-sized dill pickles and gnawed on them all the way home.

Everyone loved a party! In our early party days, an evening’s entertainment was spin the plate, musical chairs, and post office. The refreshments were usually ice cream and cookies or cake, hot cocoa in the winter, and lemonade in the summer. Many were the pre-party cuts and stings I received from squeezing lemons all afternoon. Party hours were 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., and I was severely lectured when I didn’t arrive home promptly afterward.

For dances, there were no local orchestras. For small gatherings, we met in one another’s homes, rolled up the rungs, sprinkled corn meal on the floors, and Haskell Johnson played the piano for us till she dropped. Everybody knew how to dance. Helen Cox Schrader came from Charleston once a week and conducted dance classes. Those who didn’t attend were taught by those who did. Soon all the kids were gliding across the floor to the strains of “All Alone” or jumping to the “Finale Hop.” For something different, we did an inept and rather awkward version of the tango to “Hindustan” or waltzed to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

Big dances took place at the Aracoma Hotel, the armory, the Holden clubhouse, or a big hall at Lundale. Orchestras came by train from Huntington or Cincinnati. Once Fats Waller came – now that was Big Time! He had a mile-wide grin, and his fat stubby fingers flew across the piano keys while he stomped the beat with his black shiny shoes.

Intellectual improvements were not overlooked in Logan and the ladies of the town were the primary promoters. One of the most outstanding and brilliant women was Mrs. Innis Davis. Nothing was ever the same after she became involved. She organized the Woman Club in the early 1920’s and had the half the ladies in town enrolled in the Delphian Society – a sort of intellectual mail-order club. She then decided that Logan needed a library. She persuaded influential citizens to donate a second-floor room in the old courthouse. Since I was out of school for the summer, she summoned me – Mrs. Davis never asked and never took “no” for an answer – to keep a catalog of the books we received and to help with acquisitions. That entire summer I never had time to swim. Instead, I became Logan’s first librarian.

Innis Davis’ greatest love was the Baptist church. Someone once asked her what she’d do if she ever moved to a town where there wasn’t a Baptist church. Her instant replay was, “I’d start one!” She later moved to Charleston with her husband Tom where she eventually was appointed head of the State Museum and Archives.

No one contributed more to cultural life in Logan than Jeannette C. Sayer. She came to Logan from her native Cincinnati after World War I and taught piano and was the organist and choir director at the Nighbert Memorial Methodist Church for more than 40 years. Every spring she presented all of her piano students at a formal evening recital conducted in the sanctuary. It began with the youngest and newest students and ended with the most advanced. For years, Sarah Land (Holland) was last on the program. She was not only the best of Miss Sayre’s students, but also the prettiest. To the rest of us it seemed a very long evening, indeed!

Through her choirs, Miss Sayre introduced Logan to cantatas, oratorios, Christmas carols other that “Silent Night,” and the best of classical and religious music. Although she never appeared anywhere as a soloist, she played the great music of Bach, Handel, Mozart, and all the masters at church services. She was truly a living symbol of music in Logan.

Another fine musician was Myrtle Stone, the movie pianist. On Saturday afternoons, all the kids went to the old Bennett Theatre to see silent picture shows starring William S. Hart in a Western or the latest installment of Billie Burke in “Gloria’s Romance.” Myrtle played the piano bringing forth wild sounds, eerie noises, or quiet gentle tones to punctuate the action on the screen. She was a one-woman orchestra. She made us shiver with fright during the “Perils of Pauline.” She made us drown in romance with Mary Pickford. Her gift of improvisation was amazing. She never missed a beat as the action on the screen constantly changed. She never looked at her hands and she never so much as blinked an eye.

Two exciting annual events were on everyone’s calendar: Lyceum in winter and Chautauqua in summer. Both played to packed audiences. The Lyceum programs took place at the high school auditorium. There people listened spellbound to Russell H. Conwell deliver his famous lecture, “Acres of Diamonds.” Ida M. Tarbell, muckraker newswoman and friend of Georgia O’Keeffe, gave an evening of fiery commentary on everything happening in the world. One vivid memory is of a sensational group of our African boys in their native beads and dress – or undress – singing and beating their strange-looking drums in a unique rhythm unlike anything ever before heard in Logan.

Chautauqua was more fun! It was conducted in a giant tent pitched in a vacant field near the home of Aunt Vicey Nighbert. Each afternoon and evening there was classy entertainment by musical groups, soloists, choral groups, and instrumentalists. Well-known actors appeared in traveling Broadway productions. All of this was more or less for the adults with performances in the afternoon and evening. Best of all were the morning sessions when “children’s Chautauqua” convened. Kids of all ages attended in droves. There were stories, games, reading contests, and the thrilling rehearsals for the children’s production which took place on the final night. Heady stuff for kids living in Logan in the ‘20’s.

You see, Logan wasn’t just feduin’ and fightin’ and mine wars. It was paradise.

Elizabeth Witschey Today

by Sheila McEntee

Recounting tales of her girl-hood in Logan, an engaging and articulate Elizabeth Thurmond Witschey gestures with animation. Her eyes sparkle and a ready smile lights her face. While she conveys some of her fondest personal memories, there is a broader message she does not want her listener to miss.

“Logan was a great place to grow up,” Elizabeth says. “It wasn’t all meanness and shooting. Nobody has ever tried to give it any good publicity. I finally decided I’d do it myself,” she says, explaining how she came to write the preceding story.

Elizabeth Thurmond Witschey, at 91

Elizabeth Thurmond Witschey, at 91 years of age, still has a twinkle in her eyes and a warm spot in her heart for the years she spent growing in Logan. Photograph by Michael Keller.

The great-granddaughter of William Dabney Thurmond, founder of the town of Thurmond, and granddaughter of Joseph Samuel Thurmond, a former Speaker of the House of Delegates, Elizabeth Thurmond was born in 1908 at Skelton in Raleigh County. When she was five years old, her family moved to Logan where her father operated the Thurmond Coal Company for many years.

Upon graduation from Logan High School in 1925, Elizabeth went on to Ward Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, and later spent three years at The Julliard School in New York where she studied piano.

While in New York, she took advantage of myriad cultural opportunities including concerts, Broadway shows, and other performances. “The teachers were always giving us tickets to something,” she adds. “And if they didn’t have tickets, it cost just $3.50 in those days to get into a show.”

Upon completion of her studies, she returned to Logan where she gave private lessons and taught piano at Logan High School. During the Depression, her father lost his Logan mines and her parents moved to Parkersburg where her father had been appointed collector of internal Revenue. It was on a visit to his office that Elizabeth met Robert E. Witschey, who was employed by her father. Elizabeth and Robert married in 1937.

The Witscheys settled in Charleston where Robert established a successful accounting firm and Elizabeth raised their son and daughter: Walter Witschey, now of Richmond, Virginia, and Sallie Hart of Charleston. Over the years, however, Elizabeth continued to pursue her music, giving many recitals and appearing as a soloist with the West Virginia Symphony and the Charleston Chamber Music Players. She also became an active community advocate for the arts and traveled extensively over the years in this country and abroad.

And there is one more, she says, calling attention to a recent photograph prominently displayed in the living room of her South Hills home in Charleston. It is a photo of her, smiling gleefully as she hugs her infant great-grandson.

“Do you know what his name is?” she asks with obvious delight. She does not wait for an answer. “It’s Logan Cole.”

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Logan Civic Little League

Logan Civic Little League Baseball

The Logan Civic Little League Association was founded by Forrest M. “Nig” Pierce, Lester “Bus” Perry and Earl Kirker.*

1965 Logan Civic Little League Booklet

1965 Logan Civic Little League Booklet courtesy of Herb Harvey.

1965 Logan Civic Little League Booklet

*Credit/Source: Dodie (Smith) Browning.

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Coal Miners – The Heroes of Appalachia

Coal Miners – The Heroes of Appalachia

The job of a underground coal miner has always been hard and dangerous. It was especially so during the early years of coal mining.  Every working day coal miners risked their lives to provide for their families.  That’s why they’re heroes.

Those of us that grew up in Appalachia during the 1940s, 50s and 60s and were the sons and daughters of coal miners will always remember how afraid we were for our fathers.

Monument to Coal Miners at Chief Logan State Park

Monument to Coal Miners at Chief Logan State Park
Donated by the United Mine Workers of America Logan County Commission, State of West Virginia
October 29, 1999

On Friday December 6, 1907 an explosion at the Number 8 mine at Monongah, WV killed over 360 coal miners. That’s why December 6th was selected as National Miners Day.

The 2nd worse WV mine disaster was on April 29, 1914 at Eccles, WV where 183 were killed.

“The deadliest year in U.S. coal mining history was 1907, when an estimated 3,242 deaths occurred. While annual coal mining deaths numbered more than 1,000 a year in the early part of the 20th century, they decreased to an average of about 451 annual fatalities in the 1950s, and to 141 in the 1970s. From 2006-2010, the yearly average number of fatalities in coal mining decreased to 35.”[1]

Getting killed on the job wasn’t the only occupational hazard of coal miners.  If they managed to survive a couple decades or so working underground, many had their lives cut short by black lung and other lung diseases related to their occupation.  This is the price they paid to provide for their families.

“Coal: An Appalachian Treasure” by Clara Maynard. – A video essay by a Marshall University student about coal mining and her Dehue, coal-miner grandfather.

Anyone who wants to add a photo of a coal miner to this gallery that died in the mines or from black lung is more than welcome to do so. To share a photo, please email it to the admin at loganwv.us@gmail.com. Please note that you must own the photo you are submitting or ensure that no one has a copyright claim on it. If a photo owned by you appears on this website and you do not want it here, please notify the admin for its immediate removal.

Coal Miner Photo Gallery

*Header image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
[1] Source: United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration

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